Dally’s How To: 10 Beyond Basic Fly Fishing Tips

step outside your comfort zone, the rewards are worth it. first cast first brown troutsteve dally image

So you have your first fly rod, and probably are catching some trout, maybe with a bobber, or a bugger or if you are lucky a dry fly.

Sure there is big trout, and there is few better places than right here on the White River tail-waters. But surely that’s not it? you may ask.

Truly you are scratching the surface, fly fishing’s modern evolution is has added new tactics, new species, new places and just more fishing than we thought possible 20 years ago. The fly fishing world has a bunch to offer, so here are ten suggestions to take you beyond the basics:


A great way to broaden your outlook and meet fellow travelers is to sign up for volunteer groups like Trout Unlimited, the FFF clubs or the various Friends of organisations which work for fisheries management and/or watershed conservation across the country. New friends open the doors to new water, new experiences or simply some fun on your home water.

Try Arkansas’ White River #698 Chapter of TU

Keep Casting

Mississippi Johnson’s casting skills make him very accurate

Never in the history of fly fishing has one maxim spawned so much bad language as “I catch all my fish inside 30′, so I don’t need learn to cast further”. In reality if you can only cast 30′ then fly fishing is forever going to be a trial of knots tangles and other dramas.

Having thirty feet of line out is really where all the fun starts, the rod and line will truly start harmonizing, line speed comes easier. Windy days become easier, you should tangle less, and what were seemingly hideously heavy anchors like a #6 conehead now fly from the rod.

If you can cast 50′ with ease then 30′ casts will be easier, more accurate and with less tangles.

Next step will be 60′ casts, then the Double Haul, try single handed spey casts if you are wade fisher, or backhand casts if you boat fish a lot. Better casting skills means more accuracy, more days fishing in all kinds of weather, more types of fish species or tactics come into play, and more fun.

Most decent fly shops should be able to help you improve your casting, or recommend someone who can. Or if its convenient give us a call 870 435 6166.

Learn To Sight Fish

It doesn’t which “billion fish per mile” waterway you head to, fly fishing is always more productive when you are fishing “where the fish are, not where they aint.” Being able to read the water, and spot individual fish is an art worth acquiring.

I happened to be indoctrinated in a place where making a cast before you had spied your quarry was deemed to be alongside worm drowning in “bad form”. So during our long closed winter season I’d patrol river, lakes and ponds, trying to improve my sight fishing skills. Looking for fish, any fish at first But like those magic paintings fish started popping out of nowhere.

Get a good pair of sunglasses (Costa or Guideline with us), some sunlight and go looking. You are looking for things out of the ordinary in the myriad of movement under the surface, a shadow going upstream, or across, a white mouth.

Take A Guide Trip:

Would you do this yourself?: Riverside BLT, potato salad and Bacon Pringles under Cotter Bridge

We hear the line all the time, “I’m not ready to go on a guide trip”. The truth is no-one is skilled enough not to go on a trip, particularly when you are travelling.

The best guides can teach you how to cast, untangle your knots, suggest the right gear to suit, serve you lunch, wrangle the boat and release all your trout unharmed while making it seem relatively effortless.

The right guides will ensure you catch more fish than you would have on your own, have more fun and if they can’t cure that persistant tailing loop will probably have you working on a hack to keep you fishing until you can get it cured.

You will learn plenty, you will catch more fish and have a great time. A must on new water for us all. Book A Trip With Dally’s

Start Tying

I have poked fun at a couple of fly fishing maxim’s but the one about the satisfaction of catching fish on your own flies holds true. Finding fish and casting to them is only half the challenge, next figure out what they are eating and feed it to them.

If nothing else taking up fly tying teaches you about trout food and its imitations, Local tying materials company Wapsi make several great tying kits to get you started, focusing on the patterns that work locally. Swing by the shop and check them out

The North Arkansas Fly Fishers Club runs a good beginners tying class, every year and there is a font of information on YouTube. Start with the Davy Wotton Midges and Sowbugs off our You Tube tying video channel and work your way up.

fly fishing can take you to spectacular place, Steve Dally image

The Big Trip

Anticipation is everything in fly fishing, but there is truly something special on setting off on that Big Trip. You have planned, prepped and now you are stepping into a car or on a plane with nothing ahead but fishing.

And there are so many options even here in the lower 48: Everyone should do Yellowstone and the waters surrounding it. Go see Kelly at the Slide Inn , hit up Miles Nolte if you are in the Bozeman/Livingston area, or Pete Widener’s crew for Sheridan WY area.

I love the Henry’s Fork, or the Green and missed the Snake, and I’ve skipped too much of Colorado. Your fancies might be for the northwoods: try the Driftless in Wisconsin or head up around Grayling and the Holy Waters of the AuSable.

Or you might prefer New Orleans and redfish, or Florida and tarpon and bones. Just do it.

Take A Kid Fishing

You might not have the amazing facility we have at Dry Run Creek to take kids fishing. But a panfish pond, a bent rod, and a big smile on a small face is better than going fishing yourself.

Sometimes you don’t even need the rod: I watched my wife, a pre-K teacher, entertain & educate her class of four-year-olds at Dry Run last year. Yep the fish were entertaining but they really got excited feeding the small fish at the hatchery and checking out the bugs I extracted from under the stones.


The trick to the kids fishing thing is go somewhere easy ( use live bait if you have to), take lots of (healthy) snacks and drinks, and work to their attention span.

If your child wants to spent more of their time checking out flowers, a dead crawdad or a puddle, so be it. Early on you just want fishing to be a time time out. There is lots of time to get serious about fly fishing.

Though a panfish popper a guiding hand and some bream is a good time for most ages. We start out Dry Run guides trips with 10-year-olds but everyone is different.

Twig Water or Big Water

We are, by nature, creatures of habit. I know local fly fishers, who might travel far afield to fish, but have never fished the Norfork, only the White and vice versa, and plenty of devotees of a size 10 olive woolly.

There’s 2 things I kick myself for not pursuing harder: small streams “blue lining” the mystery of finding a blue line on a map and finding out what is there. Small light rods for tight quarters, small fish and high entertainment. I’ve always through rods under 7’6″ felt well “right” for trout which is funny given the amount of time I spend with an 8wt and an 8″ streamer for trout. But if logic came into it we’d all be fishing “minners”. Swing by the shop and let’s cast a few.

I really miss the scent of saltwater too, never having lived more than 20 minutes from the ocean until I got to Arkansas. You can go chase the big glamor species or mess with the smaller fun stuff like rock bass. They all pull.


Given the total absorption needed at times, just to untangle the line from around your gear, its curious how many artistic fields fly fishing has inspired.

Drawing, painting, poetry, and prose, literature and crime novels, even the art of photography. Perhaps if we paid more attention we might catch more fish, but I prefer it how it is. There is inspiration in great art: great images that look at the everyday in a new day are inspirational, Duane Hada’s paintings put you in a moment on our waters and I love great stories.

Duane does trout and river scene painting classes at his Rivertown Gallery.

And for number 11: Don’t forget to fish